In much of Asia – and Singapore is no exception – tailors are ubiquitous, touting their services from every second corner or shopping arcade. Should you succumb to the temptation? Here’s what you need to know before you have a formal suit made for you.
The terms “bespoke” and “made to measure” are often used as synonyms for one another; this is incorrect.
Bespoke: A bespoke suit is custom-made, cut specifically for the requirements of a particular customer. The word “bespoke” dates from the 17th century, when it referred to the setting aside by a tailor of a bolt of cloth that had been ordered by a customer. The cloth had been “spoken for”.
Twenty or more different measurements will be taken, and an original pattern will be hand-drafted specifically for you.
Your tailor may first make a “basted fitting”, a skeleton version of the eventual suit, fit it to you to ensure perfection, and then use it as the pattern from which to cut the actual suit from the chosen fabric. The whole thing should be cut and sewn, partly by hand, by a single tailor. The canvas that is used to enhance the jacket’s fit and form should be “floating”; not glued or otherwise fused to the fabric as is generally the case with lesser categories of suit.
As a number of fittings are required, a bespoke suit will take anything from six weeks from order to completion. In Singapore, it will cost you from $2,000 upwards.
Handmade Off-the-peg: A handmade off-the-peg suit is made from a particular tailor’s pattern in a variety of standard sizes (which differ between tailors or fashion houses), and adjusted after being made up to fit your requirements. It is cut and sewn, partly by hand, on a human assembly line, and should have a floating canvas.
Made to Measure: A made-to-measure suit is made from an existing pattern or template that is adjusted to your measurements before being made up for you. The tailor will record a limited number of measurements and your styling requests onto a form, and the suit will be machined – and glued, in places – together. This is the product of your typical Asian tailor, and can be promised in as little as eight hours.
Before you visit a tailor – be it a bespoke tailor or one who makes to measure – have an idea of what you want so that you can be specific in your requests.
Fabric and Colour
The choice of fabric has a significant bearing on the cost of a suit. Prices vary dramatically depending on origin, weight and quality. For year-round comfort, choose a mid-weight fabric such as a worsted wool in about 220- to 240-gram weight; a Super 110 worsted and upwards is ideal. As lining inhibits air circulation, go for only partial lining in the trousers. Avoid black for the daytime. You can’t wrong with mid-to-dark grey or navy blue.
Single-breasted or double-breasted? It’s a matter of taste and fashion, but a single-breasted jacket has a more slimming effect.
One, two or three buttons? Again, a matter of taste, preference, and the look you want to project. Two has stood the test of time; three has been popular in recent years.
Single vents, double vents or none? Without vents looks sleeker, but you won’t be able to put your hands in your pockets without the coat fabric riding up over your bum. The double vent eliminates this problem.
Notched or peaked lapels? Notched lapels (above left) tends to be the default design on a single-breasted coat; double-breasted coats always have peaked lapels. Peaked lapels high towards the shoulders of a single-breasted jacket gives the illusion of being taller.
Lapel width is a matter of taste and fashion. The standard lapel extends to slightly less than halfway between the collar and the shoulder lines.
Number of sleeve buttons is normally four; working buttonholes are preferred.
Pockets – the standard two, or would you like a third “ticket” pocket, rather a flash addition? Horizontal or slanted, and to what degree?
Length of jacket – most flattering when it is level with your thumb joint when your arms are at your side. The sleeve should end slightly below the wrist bone. Showing a little bit of shirt cuff is good.
Waist-fastenings – one, two or three? Three is preferable.
Fly-fastenings – a zip or buttons?
Height of waist? Trousers traditionally sit on the natural waist; nowadays, suits are often made with a waist lower than that, but don’t suit anyone who has a muffin-top.
Belt loops, side-tabs or plain? If your waist size is constant, choose a plain waistband; a belt detracts somewhat from a suit.
Pleats – one or two on each side, or none at all? If you have a belly of any sort, order trousers in the natural waist, with double pleats: this allows the fabric to drop smoothly. Trousers with two pleats on each side rarely hang well if cut below the natural waist.
Length? They should just touch the floor at the back when your shoes are off. Trousers should have one break in the front, and none at the back.
• For a longer, leaner look, choose a single-breasted coat with high-peaked, long lapels into the natural waist. The natural waist is slightly above the belly button, which is normally the narrowest part of the torso.
• The higher the armhole, the less the jacket will ride up when you lift your arm.
• On a single-breasted coat with three buttons, just the middle button should be fastened. On a single-breasted two-button coat, the upper button should be fastened.
• The back of the waistband is better slightly higher than at the front.
• For a longer, leaner look, don’t choose turn-ups. If you’re tall, you can get away with them.
• Order two pairs of trousers with each suit coat.
For more information, read Alan Flusser’s beautiful books Style and the Man and Dressing the Man, or
visit permanentstyle.blogspot.com or www.askandyaboutclothes.com.
Sam’s Custom Tailors
#02-55 Far East Plaza
14 Scotts Road
+65 6333 8936
Mohan’s Custom Tailors
#02-73 Far East Plaza
14 Scotts Road
+65 6732 4936
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